After 12 years in the IT industry, seven of which were spent abroad, Anil Kumar, decided it was time to return home to India and start up on his own. “I decided to venture into an industry with a new product that could be introduced in India,” says Kumar, who found his solution in an eco-friendly, water-saving artificial grass. Thus, was born Fieldturf Tarkett in Hyderabad, India.
Fieldturf Tarkett is headquartered in the U.S. with a market of two billion euros that has licensees all over the world. After procuring the exclusive license for India and Sri Lanka, Kumar and his team first wanted to set the notion of artificial turf right. “We don’t position it as a substitute to natural grass. It is an alternative in places where you cannot grow natural grass,” explains Kumar. The idea is to find places where natural grass growth is not conducive, like places with water constraints and rocky terrain.
More and more people are shifting to apartments and flats with space constraint and where rooftops are increasingly being converted into areas for social gatherings. “We have done 1600 installations when it comes to landscaping facilities in houses, lobbies of hotels, corporate campuses and offices,” says Kumar. Apart from catering to homes and offices, Fieldturf also specialises in sporting turfs.
Artificial grass, which is made with polythene fibers treated with UV inhibiters, is not only lead-free, but, also ensures an abrasion-resistant surface, which is a boon to sportspeople since the risk of injuries is minimised. While it costs about Rs 150 per square feet, which is almost ten times more expensive than real grass, artificial turf has long-term benefits that natural grass cannot offer. Requiring no maintenance or water, artificial grass has a life span of 20 – 25 years. A wide range of surfaces from cricket grounds, golfing ranges to football fields enjoy dust free artificial grass, thanks to Fieldturf. Infact, Kolkata’s famous Salt Lake Stadium opted for Fieldturf’s artificial grass for its 90,000 square feet football field. With governing bodies like FIFA, MLB, UEFA, PGA Tour and NFL conferring the approved status on Fieldturf, it truly is an international success that has extended its services to India. They have done 1600 installations so far in the country.
“We don’t position Field Turf as a substitute to natural grass. It is an alternative in places where you cannot grow natural grass,” says Anil Kumar
In terms of installations for offices and households, 95 per cent of the work happens either in balconies or rooftops. Here, they lay a contoured mesh that provides a clearance between the surface of the floor and the grass layers. When the grass is exposed to rain, it percolates to the mesh so that the rain water can flow away into the drain. There is some amount of preparation needed when it comes to landscaping on the ground. A few inches of soil is excavated and layers of graded stone are rolled in so that it provides a strong base for the next 25 years. When it comes to sports fields, a more elaborate preparation system is in place.
Since the product itself was a novelty in India, Kumar had to lay the groundwork before he went all out selling the product. He visited various trade shows showcasing artificial grass and made potential customers try the surface and explained the inherent advantages of choosing artificial turf. “When it came to catering to the landscaping side of the market, we reached out to companies that had already been dealing with building materials and the like,” explains Kumar. These clients had architects and interior designers in place, which made it easy to provide visibility for the product and target it to the right customer. They currently have 20 distributors across 26 states and one distributor in Sri Lanka. The sports bodies are handled by the head office in Bangalore. They never went on a mass marketing spree, but, stuck to advertising in trade magazines and word-of-mouth marketing through architects and builders.
Fieldturf holds almost 90 per cent stake in the artificial turf market. This could possibly be attributed to the fact that they hold the patent on developing artificial grass, with recognition from around the world. When it comes to funding, Fieldturf Tarkett India has been self-sustained from the beginning and profitable since the end of the first fiscal year. “With current revenues of Rs. 3.5 crore and Rs. 5.5 crore expected in 2010, we are bootstrapped currently,” feels Kumar. While they have no immediate plans to seek funding, they plan on both product diversification and geographical expansion. The idea is to change the mindset of people regarding artificial turf as a separate product that has a different offering than natural grass. Since the market in India is not large enough to start a manufacturing unit of their own, they plan to stick to the import model for the time being. Looks like the grass is always green on this side!